Qatar’s regional policy thrown into doubt after Mursi’s ouster

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The youthfulness of Qatar’s new leader Sheikh Tamim may help steer the country to a new course in its regional and international foreign policy, notes an analysis published by the Atlantic Council.

The article --What’s next for the youngest leader in the Arab world -- states that Qatar has been the most consistent supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, with its “ambitious program to support political Islam” turning “sour” as the Islamist movement collapsed, it leaves post-revolutionary Egypt with sectarian strife and political polarization.

“[Qatar’s] narrow association with the elected Islamist government in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Islamist fighters in Libya and Syria, came to be resented by many in these societies and in the international community,” writes Kristin Smith Diwan, Assistant Professor of Comparative and Regional Studies at the American University School of International Service.

The former Qatari Sheikh Hamad’s resignation is an unusual incident in the Arab world, and within days of taking power, 33-year-old Sheikh Tamim had to deal with former ally Egyptian president Mohammad Mursi being overthrown. Diwan notes that these events have cast Qatar’s future path and influence into “doubt.”

Qatar is viewed as a partisan in the post-Arab Spring’s political struggles, rather than leading the Arab popular will. The country’s support for armed revolutionaries in Libya and Syria showed the extent of Qatar’s strategy to “keep ahead of the Arab Spring.”

The article notes that Qatar’s stance in supporting Islamist movements differs from many member states in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), with Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait giving $12 billion in financial grants and assistance to Egypt almost immediately after Mursi’s ouster.

While Sheikh Tamim is a relatively inexperienced leader compared to his father, the article states that “Emir Tamim’s best asset may, in fact, be his youth.”

While Qatar’s new generation is “raised in comfort,” the nation’s youth are more willing to question both the ruler’s competence and how the nation’s vast wealth should be distributed.

Sheikh Tamim may be the right person at the right time.

“If Emir Tamim can connect with this new generation in substantive ways that further empower them, then Qatar could truly bequeath a revolutionary legacy in the Gulf and regain its stature within the region,” notes Diwan.